For an expansive topic such as the ‘index of forbidden expressions’ that couldn’t have been exhausted within the limited space allotted to me, I then decided to continue from where I stopped the previous week, to accommodate the leftovers, at least to satisfy our curiosity where to draw the line. Earlier on, we listed some of the worn out phrases, or what the language purists and masters acknowledged as forbidden statements that should be ignored, and replaced with functional English. And to recap, I state them here again for emphasis, and for those who may have missed the last edition of the publication. The forbidden expressions mentioned include, though not limited to these popular statements that often times pop up in the press, the electronic and print media; ‘enabling environment,’ ‘face the wrath of the law,’ ‘Nigerians in the diaspora,’ ‘stakeholders,’ ‘role model,’ ‘NGO,’ ‘giant of Africa,’ ‘sensitise,’ and ‘people-oriented.’ To an extent, the tired phrases, ‘enabling environment,’ ‘face the wrath of the law,’ ‘Nigerians in the diaspora,’ and ‘stakeholders’ were extensively discussed, and better alternatives or synonyms suggested to replace them, rather than recycle them, and be sounding like a broken record, as some would mildly put it.
For the week lesson, let’s consider the expressions, ‘role model,’ ‘NGO,’ ‘giant of Africa,’ ‘sensitise,’ and ‘people-oriented.’ From these sentences that most times steal the show in public gatherings and shares a sizeable space, whether on air or on the pages of newspapers, bluntly speaking, one can do without employing their services because they have been overused. They sound repetitive and boring. For example, the ‘role model’ statement is archaic, and classified as a cliché. Where necessary, rather than stick to the phrase ‘role model,’ interpret it to give it a different flavour. One could write, for instance, ‘children have been asked to imitate the good qualities of their parents.’ Refused to be dragged along, chorusing ‘parents should be role models to their children.’ Play down the expression, ‘role model,’ even when one is tempted to use it, because they are readily available begging to be employed. The statements, ‘NGO,’ and ‘giant of Africa,’ ought to be given the same treatment.
They are steadily becoming obsolete and inconsequential. Non- (not); that is to be neutral is often associated with Non-governmental organization, simply abbreviated ‘NGO’ to also mean not belonging to government. It is a body or association run by private concerns or group of individuals to accomplish a chosen task. The ‘NGO’ phrase is also subject to interpretation to give it a different angle. Don’t get stuck, try the synonym of ‘NGO’ and see if one can sound better and fresher. The ‘giant of Africa’ statement is commonly linked to Nigeria, seen by the international community as big brother Africa owing to her Africa centred foreign policy and big economy. Again, the influence it wields in international politics gave her the tag ‘giant of Africa.’ Whether Nigeria is still the giant it used to be is another conversation entirely, given the challenges it currently faces from all fronts. Only recently, former governor of the central bank, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi described Nigeria as a giant with clay feet.
True or false, judge by yourself. All that the masters of the language are concerned about is that ‘giant of Africa’ statement can no longer fly. The expressions, ‘sensitise,’ and ‘people-oriented’ suffer the same fate. Look for the synonyms to replace them, better still use them sparingly. Feedback: I appreciate the feedback I got from a namesake and regular reader, Mike who wrote from Ijanikin in Lagos, edited to fit in the space. It went like this: ‘Truly I feel delighted reading your writings in the Herald newspaper. I observed the following in your publication of August 29 to September 4, 2021, in column 3, 1st line ‘give detail.’ Shouldn’t it be ‘details?’ in the 3rd and 4th lines, the ‘maybe educate,’ I guess have the word (sic) ‘to,’ written after ‘be.’ One insist’ should it not be ‘insists’? “Thanks for your priceless work,” he concluded. Yes, Mike, so long as I did not use the adjective, ‘all’ the ‘detail’ does not require the plural form of it. The ‘maybe educate’ is correct without the preposition ‘to.’ The verb ‘insist,’ one can ‘insist,’ but Mary didn’t give in as she ‘insists’ on her rights. Jane and Agatha ‘insist’ on. Keep reading this column and learn more. Thank you.